Philippians 1: 3-4 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy (NLT)
It is a shame that sometimes we only gain perspective through heartbreaking tragedy. That we only stop the busyness of our lives when we are literally forced to or God forbid when we have to bury someone. This week we bury someone I loved dearly. Someone I should have said that too more often than I did, especially near the end. Of course, we often have no idea when that end is coming.
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone. James 4: 14 (NLT)
But that is the great illusion of time we all live under. That somehow we will always have tomorrow to take care of what we should be doing or saying today. Time is not long on this earth; it is but a glimmer. A faint moment lost in a grand picture. A single thread in a magnificent tapestry. Along with this elusive truth is the old adage that familiarity breeds contempt. That the very things that make up our lives and give them the purpose and the joy it has are the very things we do not consider nearly enough. We live our lives often in complete obliviousness to the splendor of life God has given us every single day because it becomes commonplace. We can easily begin take for granted the things we should be on our knees thanking God for every day. Our families, our friends, our church, our pastors. The truth is that I would rather be poor in money but blessed in people. I thank God for the people He has strategically poured into my life. My family, my friends, my church family. I know though that I have a habit of taking them for granted and for that I am sorry. Because there is nothing you can do when they are gone. There is nothing you can say. The mere words I write currently are just words. They might move you. They might make you cry. They might inspire you. But they can do nothing about the person who has already left us. They are too insignificant for the task.
My words cannot bring back the person that I love. They can memorialize her. They can honor her. But they have no real power. No power over the single thing we fear the most and pay attention to the least life and death. But Anna deserved so much more than this ending. And even though she deserves so much more than I can possibly write, the Lord says I still must write. I have been praying for a Word from God. A magical Scripture that can sum up how special Anna was to me and to everyone she met. A Scripture that would really embody the love that she lived her entire life with; always giving to others. Instead however, God gave me a practical Scripture. A Scripture that we can take moving forward so that her life causes us to do something beyond merely remembering her. But God never wastes a single word He has given us.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (NLT)
ALL Scripture is inspired by God. All of it corrects us and teaches us. God uses it to prepare and equip us for the good work He would have us do. Anna was always about doing the good work God wanted her to do. She was the "poster child" for Martha from the story of Mary and Martha. Her life should serve as a reminder that you can live with the measure of grace God has given you. Anna always did.
So we find ourselves with the key Scriptures today coming from the start of the letter of Paul to the Church at Philippi. This was a church that Paul founded on his journeys and now he is writing them from prison. And while the Book of Philippians is filled with great theology that we need to shape how we are to be as Christians, it is these simple introductory verses that God is saying to me today to remember when I think of dear Anna. They represent what we simply do not do enough on this earth. God is saying it is time to stop taking for granted all that He has already given us. There are two essential parts here.
First of all, we should be thankful to God for the people he has brought into our lives. Note the language the Apostle Paul is using here. He is not saying that occasionally he thanks God for the people in Philippi. These were friends of Paul. These were fellow ministry workers and laborers in God's fields. These were no doubt people that Paul loved dearly. I want us to remember today these words
EVERY TIME I THINK OF YOU
I GIVE THANKS TO MY GOD
I separated the two thoughts because we often do that in our lives. Giving thanks to God is almost ritualistic. We thank Him for waking us up. We thank Him at meal time. We thank Him for traveling mercies. On the flip side, we treat our thought process as almost haphazard. A thought comes in and goes out, never reconsidered. Someone pops into our heads and then we quickly move onto whatever busyness we are occupying our time with. Realize beloved that you job is not your life. Your career is not your life. Neither is your house, your car, your church, your vacations, your activities, your clubs, or anything else you use to fill up the spaces on your calendar. It is the people that make up your life. Your life has value in direct proportion to the people in it that are affected by who you are. I can tell you that Anna's life from that perspective has eternal value.
Can you imagine if we could ever get ourselves properly conditioned to give thanks to God for someone simply because we thought of them? That when your mother, brother, or friend pop into your head that you could stop your busyness for that 30 necessary seconds and give thanks to God for that specific person! My God, how much more valuable do you make that person in your heart? How much more likely are you to express that value to them? How much more would you appreciate them in your life? Instead of a passing thought that dissipates in the breezes of our busy day, we actually take 30 seconds and thank God Almighty for who that person is in our lives! How do you think you would feel the next time you see that person? How much more precious did you make them to your being? And realize that is only one time! One isolated incident. One thought translated into thanksgiving unto God. But maybe you think of them again the next day. Maybe two days after that. Now you have stopped the busyness of your life four times in one week to thank God for this person and who they are in your life! How much more valuable have just made them? Here are some familiar verses:
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6-7 (NLT)
We live our lives often in perpetual drama and unrest. Hopping from one stress to another. Sometimes the peace of God can seem very elusive. But what is the key revealed in these verses? Yes prayer is certainly important and we will get to that momentarily but without thanksgiving, there is no peace! God's peace is so powerful that it transcends our mere mortal understanding and it is available if we would only have a thankful spirit. Anna had a thankful spirit. A spirit that had no problem stopping and praying for someone. A spirit that always thought of others before herself. The first thing God is saying to us today is stop the busyness of our lives long enough to actually enjoy our lives. Stop and be thankful for the people God has poured into you. Don't take them for granted. EVERY time I think of you I give THANKS to my God.